Skip to main content

Full text of "When Lincoln was first inaugurated"

See other formats

f f f f t M7\R.Ch ¥ ¥ \e>J7 ¥ ¥ V ¥ 

Ft $ Y&f* 

. '« 




A S I FIRST saw them, Mr. Lincoln was a tall, lank, gawky, 
ugly, country lawyer, his ill-proportioned, lantern- 
red face relieved by a line forehead, and by large, solemn, 
>t smile with his wide mouth, 

jawed fact 

ri\r< country was in a condition that the present 

'eSSjsbS generation cannot realize when Abraham 
Lincoln, President-elect, started from his little 
wooden cottage. at Springfield, Illinois, to 
occupy the While House at Washington. 
Six of the Southern States had seceded from 
the Union, had organized a provisional 
1 Government at Montgomery, Alabama, and 
had elected Jefferson Davis. President and Alexander IT. 
Stephens Vice-President Commissioners from South 
Carolina were demanding from tlfe Government the sur- 
render of Port Sumter. A Peace Congress, comoosed of 
representatives of most of the States, and presided over by 
ex-President Tyler, was framing abortive compromises, 
and keeping several doubtful States, such as Virginia 
and Texas, from seceding immediately. The United 
States Mint and Custom House at New Orleans had been 
seized by the secessionists. Rhode Island had voted 
in the Peace Conference for the eternal preservation of 
negro slavery south of latitude s6° 30', and for com- 
pensation for slaves that might be freed by violence. 
Business men in Philadelphia and New York were calcu- 
lating whether they could better afford to lose their 
Southern or their Northern trade. The Democratic party 
was divided and distracted. The new Republican party 
was more anxious about its responsibilities than trium- 
phant over its first success. The whole nation was in 
disorder and confusion. 


L INCOLN, who concealed a very serious mind under the 
drolleries of a comic story-teller, was not without 
experience in National affairs. After serving for several 
terms in the Legislature of Illinois he had been elected 
to Congress ; had won a reputation as a humorist ; had 
been introduced by Senntor Seward to many prominent 
people ; had lectured in New York and Boston, and had 
been awakened by Senator Sumner to the injustice of 
slavery and the imminence of the irrepressible conflict 
between patriotism and property in man. It was with a 
sad heart and a disturbed mind that he left the home 
where he had been " Honest old Abe” since boyhood, to 
tour through Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey and 
Pennsylvania on his way to his inauguration ; but he 
assumed a smiling face and a jovial manner, and his slock 
of stories never failed from Springfield to Harrisburg. 

Most of the journey was exceedingly monotonous. At 
every station a party of local politicians came on the train. 
Several political leaders of National reputation and a 
few newspaper reporters came through in the special 
car. There was no privacy for Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, 
except when they went into their sleeping compartment. 
Everybody walked in or out, and talked or listened as lie 
pleased. There was no ceremony, and Mr. Lincoln did 
not seem to care to inspire any personal respect, l-k- 
told stories to the delegations that boarded the car, and 

the delegates told stories to him. Occasionally, when 
the train stopped at a city or large town, he would go out 
on the back platform and begin a speech, which was soon 
interrupted by the engineer, who thought more of the 
time-table than of the utterances of the President-elect. 

T here was 
began to 
cut off by tl: 
tell me the ei 
“Well." h 
"these continual stop- 
pages remind me of a 
drive I once took to 
attend a convention 
at which f was to be 
nominated for the 

: the 


drove the slowei 
went, and when I 
reached my destina- 
tion I found that the 
convention had nomi- 
nated my opponent 
and adjourned. All 
the way back 1 kept 
thinking what such a 
horse could be good 
for, and when I drove 
up to the stable 1 
asked its owner the 


ral, I 

reckon. 1 

"‘No, my friend,' 
I replied, ‘ never hire 
that horse for a bury- 
ing party ! 1 

" ' Why not?' says 

" ‘ Because,' says I, 
as serious as a Judge, 
‘if that horse pulls the 
hearse the Day of 
judgment will get 
here before the corpse 
strikes the grave- 
yard ! ’ 

the ! 


Journal. These articles "ill portray a succession ot the most con- 
jpicuous popular cnlhusinjnia which America has wilncsscd during Ihc 
past fifty years. The eTcatcsi potentates, statesmen, orators, preachers 

and songstresses will be Ihc central figure - j " 

began in the JOUR! ' " ' 

If they 
keep on stopping at 
every station for me 
to make a speech, 
this funeral will never 
reach Washington ! ” 

who had done her 1 
to talk about it. Long years afterward I found that Mr. 
Lincoln had grown with the great events of the Civil War, 
and that he had attained the dignity and impressiveness 
of a demigod. But at first sight he justified the •■xclama- 
tions of Senator Douglas, who had been his friend from 
boyhood, though opposed to him in politics, and who 
used to mutter in his sleep, when somewhat overcome by 
the hospitalities on the train : "Oh, Lord I Abe Lincoln 
the President of the United States ! Oh, Lord ! Abe 
Lincoln a President ! Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! " 

When we arrived at New York City, by the Hudson 
River Railroad — the station was then on Thirtieth Street — 
there was a consultation about what was to be said in 
reply to Mayor Fernando Wood, who already had a rep- 

hows that 
breaking off of 
speeches along the 
route had probably 
been prearranged. 
Mr. Lincoln had noth- 
ing to say to the 
American people 
until his inaugural 

THE train stopped ; 



windows immense 
crowds could be seen; 
the cheering drowned 
the blowing off steam 
of the locomotive. 
Then Mrs. Lincoln 
opened her hand bag 

" Abraiiarr 

fix yot 

up . 


"Do 1 look nice 
now, mother?” he 
affectionately asked. 

"Well, you'll do. 
Abraham,'' replied 
Mrs. Lincoln crit- 
ically. So he kissed 
her and lifted her 
down frotn the seat, 


ir Wood, courtly 
suave, and to 
. e hi- hand shaken 
by the other New 
York officials. 

The next day the 
journey was resumed 
at Jersey City, and 


March, 1897 

Mr. Lincoln greeted me like a long-lost friend, and 
Mrs. Lincoln made room for me on the seat beside 
her. The apparent inadequacy of this simple couple for 
the dignities which they were approaching was rather 
painful to observe ; but the observer was mistaken : the 
inadequacy was only apparent. There was the customary 
interrupted speech at the New Jersey stations, and at 
New Brunswick, where I shook hands with my bovhood 
and college friends, Mr. Lincoln turned to me anil play- 
fully asked : 

“ Is this your reception or mine? ” 

When the matter was explained and Rutgers College 
pointed out to him he remarked : 

"Ah ! That is what I have always regretted— the want 
of a college education. Those who have it should thank 
God for it.” 


P HILADELPHIA gave Mr. Lincoln a fine reception. It 
was on Washington’s Birthday and the crowd made 
holiday. But there had been a secret meeting of the 
Government officials and the Republican leaders, and the 
Presidential party went on to Harrisburg, ostensibly to 
visit Governor Curtin. At Harrisburg another special 
correspondent and myself occupied a large, double- 
bedded room. We were very comfortable physically, 
but uneasy mentally. A correspondent has an instinct 
for news ; we fell that there was something going on 
that we ought to know but did not. About midnight we 
started to go to the telegraph office and ask if anything 
important had happened anywhere. 

The door of our room was locked ! 

Each suspected the other of playing some trick, and 
after ringing the bell violently, pounding and kicking the 
door, I went to a window and began to discuss the possi- 
bility of climbing down from the third story. Just as we 
were planning how to do this the locked door opened, a 
short, thick-set man entered, relocked the door and said : 
“ Very sorry, gentlemen, but you must not leave this 
room to-night." 

" Put away that revolver! Why mustn't we leave the 
room? What's up ? Talk quickly ! " 

The man had formerly been in the employ of the 
Adams Express Company and was now a Secret Service 
agent of the Government. His orders were to prevent 
any report from being telegraphed from Harrisburg, and 
lie insisted upon our paroles before he would talk to us. 
At length he became amenable to reason and supper, and 
agreed to tell us what had happened, but only upon con- 
dition, however, that we would not telegraph it without 
his permission. 

T'HEN came the wonderful story. Mr. Lincoln had gone 
1 to Washington by way of Philadelphia on a special 
train, because General Scott feared that he would be 
assassinated; Mrs. Lincoln had accompanied him, and the 
rest of the party had been detained at Harrisburg. There 
was no disguise of "a Scotch cap and long military 
cloak" in the original story ; one of the correspondents 
interpolated that. But to have such news and not be 
able to send it to our papers in New York was, indeed, 
almost maddening. The sentinel looked at his watch 
and said gravely ; 

“By this time Mr. Lincoln is in Washington or in 
Heaven ! Now, gentlemen, I give you back your 
paroles ! " 

In a very few minutes we were at the telegraplv office, 
and the next morning the whole country knew that the 
President-elect had reached the nation's Capital in safety. 

That there was any good reason for this midnight 
journey has been often disputed, but no one who knew 
the circumstances ever doubted its wisdom. 

We took the first train that followed the Lincoln special, 
and the journey was most exciting. Every jolt suggested 
a bomb, every blast of the locomotive whistle an attack. 
From every station we sent dispatches to New York. 
But for the time the plotters of assassination were par- 
alyzed, and we found Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln at Willard’s 
Hotel, Washington, surrounded by a volunteer guard of 
stem-faced Republicans who had come from all parts of 
the country. 



THERE, on the following Monday, the introduction of the 
1 President-elect to Washington society took place. 
The hotel parlors were crowded with elegantly-dressed 
ladies, and with gentlemen who had long held positions in 
the official aristocracy, most of them secretly sympathizing 
with secession and all curious to see “the rail-splitter," 
who had split the Southern States from the I'nion, " the 
Western baboon,” as they politely designated him. 
Presently, from a side door that suggested .a scene on the 
stage, emerged the face of Mr. Lincoln, smiling nervously ; 
then his tall, thin, awkward body ; then a long arm, and 
finally, at the end of this arm, a dumpy little woman. He 
was dressed in a new suit of shiny black that had been 
presented to him as an advertisement by an enterprising 
tailor. She was wrapped in a white shawl. Mr. Lincoln 
looked at the fashionable assembly and said, in his clear, 
distinct voice : 

" Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to present to you 
the long and short of the Presidency ! ” 

As lie said "the long,” he bowed; as he said "the 
short," he looked down at Mrs. Lincoln and smiled. A 
shudder ran through the parlors. The ladies stared at 
the strange couple ; the gentlemen bent their heads. 
That man the President of the Lhiited States ! That 
woman the first lady of the land ! All the etiquette of 
the Republican court that had been established since the 
days of President Washington was violated. Even we 
Northerners, who stood sturdily and unfalteringly by the 
new President, could not help recalling the words of 
Senator Douglas. 

Threats of assassination were in the air and Mr. Lincoln 
was carefully guarded. The Capital was filling up with 
Cromwelhans from New England and the West— resolute, 
fighting men who were to take part in the inaugural pro- 
cession that the secessionists were expected to attack. 
On the morning of March 4 I called at Willard's Hotel 
and found that Mr. Lincoln had risen at sunrise and was 
revising his inaugural address, because Tom Corwin had 
used some of its phrases in a speech delivered the day 
before. His Cabinet had been announced in the morning 
papers— Seward, Chase, Simon Cameron, Montgomery 
Blair, the giants of those days. 

AS I WALKED up to the Capitol the wide, dusty streets 
. were already crowded. Regular troops were posted 
at intervals along Pennsylvania Avenue. Sharpshooters 
were climbing over the roofs of the houses. A mounted 
officer at every corner was ready to report to General 
Scott the passage of the procession. Detectives in plain 
clothes squirmed through the masses of people. The 
policemen had been instructed to arrest for "disorderly 
conduct " any person who called Mr. Lincoln an oppro- 
brious name or uttered a disloyal sentiment. There was 
much suppressed excitement, and the prophetic word 
" assassination " was in every mind. 

President Buchanan, whose term expired at noon, was 
engaged until half an hour later in signing the bills that 
had been hurriedly passed, but the Congressional clock 
had been put back to legalize the transaction. At last he 
drove down to Willard's and the procession was formed. 
The President and President-elect rode in an open 
barouche ; but this confidence in the people was more- 
apparent than real. On the front seat were Senators 
Baker and Pearce; a guard of honor of the regular 
cavalry surrounded the carriage; beyond were mounted 
marshals four files deep. From the sidewalks no one 
could accurately distinguish Mr. Lincoln. Close behind 
marched regiments of regulars and marines, fully armed. 
It seemed more like escorting a prisoner to his doom than 
a President to his inauguration. 

Straggling behind the military were veterans of the 
Revolutionary War, of the War of 1S12, and of the 
Mexican War, members of the Peace Congress, delegations 
from the loyal States. There were only about seven hun- 
dred of these delegates in line, and of these three hun- 
dred came from New York to honor Secretary Seward. 
Then came a division of colored volunteers, which was 
greeted with whispered curses. Never before had colored 
men been seen in a military procession, except as carriers 
of water or of targets. There was a tableau car, drawn 
by white horses and escorted by a company of Republican 
Wide-awakes, and I noticed that the pretty girls who 
represented the North and the South were quarreling 

I ITTLE cheering and no enthusiasm greeted the proces- 
L sion. Every now and then an arrest for "disorderly 
conduct" was quickly and quietly made in the crowd. 
The sunshine was bright, but the whole affair was as 
gloomy as if Mr. Lincoln were riding through an enemy's 
country— as, indeed, he was. A trilling incident proved 
this. A rumor ran from lip to lip that the Presidential 
carriage had broken down, and only the prompt action of 
the troops in pushing back the spectators prevented cheers 
of triumph over this evil omen. 

As they left the barouche at the steps of the Capitol, 
Buchanan looked very grave, Lincoln pale and anxious, 
and both were covered with dust. I entered the Senate 
chamber with Hannibal Hamlin, the Vice-President-elect, 
who had walked up from Willard's, and had noted the- 
hostility of the spectators. The Senate chamber was 
overcrowded ; many ladies had beert in the galleries since 
midnight. Vice-President Breckinridge took charge of 
Mr. Hamlin, and the new Vice-President assumed his 
office with no more formality than the swearing of an 
ordinary juror. 

Meanwhile the President and the President-elect had 
been refreshed; and Marshal French formed the procession 
front the Senate chamber to the portico of the Capitol. 
The platform was filled with officials and diplomats, 
and about thirty thousand persons had assembled to 
listen to the inaugural address. They were very quiet ; 
not obtrusively hostile, but obviously unfriendly. The 
shadow of civil war obscured the sunshine arid hung 
like a pall over the proceedings. Senator Baker, of 
Oregon, formally introduced Mr. Lincoln, who seemed 
more tall, more gaunt, more ugly and more awkward 
than ever as he fumbled in his pocket for his manuscript 
and put on large, steel-rimmed spectacles. The crowd 
jeered at him sot/o voce , and some said, "Look at old 
goggles ! " A few more arrests for "disorderly conduct " 
were promptly made by the officers, and a dead silence 


MR- LINCOLN read his address slowly, distinctly, but 
‘ ' 1 without any oratorical emphasis or gestures. As 
soon as it became clear that he would maintain the Union 
even by force of arms, the audience was indifferent. 
There were no cheers and no cries of dissent. When he 
had ended with those noble words: "We are not enemies, 
but friends; we must not be enemies; though passion 
may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affec- 
tion ; the mystic chords of memory, stretching from 
every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart 
and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell 
the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely 
they will be, by the better angels of our nature" — there 
was no response. Then Lincoln bowed his head as if in 
silent prayer, sighed wearily as if lie knew that he had 
failed to touch the Southern heart, and turned to Chief 
Justice Taney to take the oath of office. The Chief Justice 
trembled with age or with anxiety. Lincoln was the 
eighth President to whom he had administered the oath, 
and the Chief Justice, it was quite apparent, feared that 
he would be the last. 

Reentering the barouche, with Mr; Buchanan as his 
guest, President Lincoln was escorted to the White House, 
the procession now moving much more quickly than 
before. He had recovered his spirits, and urged Mr. 
Buchanan to “Come in and take something to wash the 
dust from your throat," but Mr. Buchanan declined with 
stately courtesy and at once withdrew to the residence of 
District Attorney Child. During the White House dinner 
President Lincoln was called from the table to deliver a 
brief speech to the New York delegation, and at its con- 
clusion lie said, with his usual humor: "I guess that 
Seward ought to have made that speech." 

At the Inauguration Ball, which was given at the City 
Hall that evening, only about two thousand persons were 
present. Mr. Buchanan did not attend. Washington 
society had resolved to ignore the new President. It was 
a sombre festivity, for already the lines between the North 
and the South were sharply defined. The majority of 
the guests were not in evening dress. The Republican 
ladies did not care to dance. To those who had known 
Washington in the old days the ball seemed very much 
like a funeral. 

\A/HEN the Presidential party entered the ballroom 
* » Senator Douglas, faithful among the faithless, gal- 
lantly gave his arm to Mrs. Lincoln. A few hours and a 
good dressmaker had transformed that simple little 
woman into quite a belle. She was tastefully attired in a 
very becoming blue gown, and she carried a large fan 
and an immense bouquet. She beckoned to me with the 
hm, and gave me the Bouquet and the surprising informa- 
tion : " We had flowers all over the table for dinner ! " 
The President and Mrs. Lincoln did not dance, so an 
impromptu reception was substituted for the court 
quadrille, and almost every person was presented to Mr. 
Lincoln and shook hands with him. He was in jovial 
spirits, as full of fun as a boy. When he noticed me lie 
made a wry face, pushed up his sleeves and said, ' This 
hand-shaking is harder work than rail-splitting." 

After the supper, when the ball had become more like 
a dance, I handed Mrs. Lincoln her bouquet, and ven- 
tured to congratulate the President upon his improve' 1 
health. « - * 1 ■ ■ 


■Yes,” he replied, looking at me significantly, "you 
may tell him that Thurlow Weed has found out that 
Seward was not nominated at Chicago ! ” 

T his was very old news, another " Lincoln joke," and 
I smiled and took my leave. Rut on my way to the tele- 
iph office the joke assumed most serious proportions, 
meant, on the authority of the President himself, that 
Weed's secret intrigues to become the power behind the 
Cabinet had been exposed and defeated ; that Chase was 
to remain Secretary of the Treasury and master of the 
situation ; that the sceptre of political power had passed 
forever from New York and the South to the great West, 
and that Lincoln was to be President in fact as well as in 
name. So tremendous was the importance of this "joke " 
that it crowded out for a day the description that I had 
previously telegraphed of the costumes at the curious 
ball which ended the first inauguration of President 

" When Lafayette Rode Into Philadelphia •• 

<$> i\<> lV> tVi 


By Helen - Earle 

TIMMY DAWSON had finished his day's work — that is, In 
J had spent the morning mending a net which lie hoped 
to rent in the afternoon, and he had spent the afternoon 
waiting for some one who had spoken of wanting his 
tackle, as well as one of his dories. The day could not 
be called a prosperous one. But what is prosperity ? 
Jimmy had his cottage, his dories, a few precious books’— 
the remnants of his college library, and of his brief life 
in the world — the memory of his sainted mother, his 
gentle, religious life, and his scorn of women in general. 

He walked from his boat-house to his cottage, and 
entered his small kitchen. Everything was in exquisite 
order. A small looking-glass on one side of the room 
reflected his long gray Beard and gray hair, and his gentle, 
refined face. He had taken down a volume of Horace 
when the door to his front room, or shop, opened, and he 
hastened forward to see who the customer might be. 
The small stock of stationery’ which he carried for the 
village folk brought him an occasional visitor from the 
hotel near by. He stepped back hastily. No, it cannot 
be, yet so like, so like! Twenty odd summers ago a 
woman's word had crushed tile ambitions of his youth, 
and had sent him, a lonely recluse, to pass his lifuon the 
rocks and under the pines where he first saw his love. 

" I hear that you keep pens and pencils,” a gentle voice 
was saying. 

Jimmy roused himself and replied. His voice had a 
singular, minor sweetness. The pens proved desirable. 
What a face she had! A tumult of memories crowded 
upon him. Hoping to detain his visitor longer he gave .1 
few Florida beans, which he had received as cash from a 
village bargainer, to the boy who had followed her. He 
must look at her and hear her voice ; he would tell her 
about himself ; she would understand. He showed a 
rare old chair belonging to a set of four, in one of which 
George Washington had sat ; he took out a letter written 
by his great-grandfather. His visitor seemed interested, 
spoke about his cozy cottage and the beauty of the region. 

A great thought had been taking shape in Jimmy's 
mind; it came out timidly! " I was about to have riiy 
tea when you came in. Will you not stay, you and your 
son, and sup with me? ” 

She accepted in a gracious way. Overcome with joy 
Jimmy drew out a spindle-legged iable, and arranged on 
it the blue and white china that had not been used since 
“dear mother" died. He was sorry that his beans were 
cold and his brown bread hard, but he could make good 
tea. 1-Ie kept glancing shyly toward his guest, who had 
taken up a favorite volume of Whittier, and to her son 
was reading softly "The Swan Song of Parson Avery," 
who met his death on the rocks along the lighthouse 
ledge. Jimmy listened. Would the story which he was 
about to tell, prove his last word, perhaps his swan song? 
How sweet it all was ! He trembled. 

The three sat down together, and Jimmy said a simple 
grace. Conscious of a lack, he went to a chest of drawers 
and took from it an apron, white, figured with delicate 
blue. " It was dear mother's, but you may use it to 
protect your dress. I am sorry that I have no napkin." 

His soul was full of a strange content. After the 
simple meal, and a dreamy, reminiscent talk in the 
twilight, Jimmy watched his visitors depart. The waves, 
cherished companions of many years, crooned their 
rhythmical song ; the pine trees, too, murmured the old 
story. In the gathering darkness Jimmy was again alone, 
but he no longer hated all women.